Black, Gabb publish on valuation change in corporate libraries

Alistair Black
Alistair Black, Professor Emeritus

In their recent article, “The Value Proposition of the Corporate Library, Past and Present,” Professor Alistair Black and doctoral student Henry Gabb discuss findings from their survey of modern corporate librarians.

Their investigation looks at changes in valuation of the corporate library over the past one hundred years, using a survey conducted in 1916 as a benchmark.

Abstract: Corporate libraries of the kind we would recognize today began to appear around the turn of the twentieth century. They were a response to a rapidly changing corporate and commercial environment, acting as adjuncts to both the rise of systematic industrial research and the office management revolution that accompanied the implementation of scientific management.

A survey of American corporate libraries in 1916 by the British manufacturer Rowntree and Company provides a snapshot of their operations and perceived value. The survey was repeated with a selection of today’s corporate librarians. Their responses are strikingly similar to those of their early twentieth-century counterparts, despite intervening technological change. As it was a century ago, the value of the corporate library, even if it cannot be quantified, is accepted.

The article was published in the May/June 2016 issue of Information & Culture (Volume 51, Number 2).

Black is a full professor and editor of the School’s quarterly journal, Library Trends. His research focuses on the history of corporate libraries and staff magazines and the design of public libraries in the 1960s. Gabb is a research assistant whose interests include the interface between computation, life science, and medical informatics.